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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

RILKE

181

sonttchen L,ebens lst\ Life has a purpose: death; and the ripening
unto death should be like the ripening of fruit, in sunshine and
sweetness: 'Wir stehn in deinem Garten Jahr fur Jahr \ und sind die
Baume, sussen Tod %u tragen? Salvation from unnatural wilting to a
mean death in great cities can only come from a Saviour; 'der
Gross te\ whom the Virgin did not bear; and in a terrific sexual
image the poet calls for the creation of this One who, figured as
female ^bauseinemLeben einenschonen Schoss> \ und seine Sebum errichte
wie ein Tor1 \ in einem bknden Waldvonjungen Haaren'} because recep-
tive of a thousand germs, shall in a great night conceive the future
from the membrum virile of der Unsagbare. This Greatest One is the
Messiah come at last: not Christ, but the Progenitor of Death (der
Tod-Gebdrer\ the bringer to all of the great individual death, with,
in his wake, the white-mounted legions (of self-perfection). 'And
let me5, the poet continues, 'be mouth of this new Messiad.' Here
of course we have something analogous to Stefan George's 'third
humanism', his poet's vision (in Das neue Reich] of the poet-creator
of the New Realm; where the two seers differ is in the value they
attach to life here below - George, with his call to vitalize the
present, stands for Diesseitigkeit, Rilke, with his old Catholic doc-
trine that life is noble only in so far as it prepares for a noble
death, stands for Jenseitigkeit; and thus in the two greatest of
modern poets we find the typically German accentuation of dual-
ism. And yet there is Weltfreude in neither, and Weltflucht in both;
both are austere; and there is actually less austerity in the praiser
of death than in the praiser of life; where both agree is in their
rejection of common aims.

In his interpretation of 'rich and poor' Rilke calls to mind (like
George in Die bdngenden Garten) the glories of ancient culture - of
the rich who forced life to be infinitely wide and warm. But the
days of the rich (in this sense of the harmony of wealth and poetic
life) have passed away, and we will not pray to God for their
return - but we will pray that the poor shall again be poor. They
whom we call the poor are merely the not-rich, they who are
without will and world, marked with the stigmas of utter misery,
wilted and withered in the dust of cities. And yet all they need to
be a ring of roses on God's earth is to be permitted to be as poor
as they really are ('so arm sein durfen, me sie mrklich sind'}; and Rilke
now gives his interpretation of poverty as a glory radiated from

1 There is the same gross physical image in the poem Verk&ndigung (p. 189).